Vettel clinches first F1 title

Sports Network

, Last Updated: 3:28 PM ET

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - Sebastian Vettel from Red Bull Racing became the youngest driver in Formula One history to claim the world championship after an impressive win in Sunday's season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Vettel, 23, started on the pole and led the way until he pitted on lap 25, allowing Jenson Button from McLaren to take the top spot. Vettel took the lead for good after Button made his stop with 15 laps remaining. The young German crossed the finish line 10 seconds ahead of Button's teammate, Lewis Hamilton, for his fifth win of the season and the 10th of his F1 career.

"Thank you, boys, this is unbelievable," an emotional Vettel said over his team radio after taking the checkered flag at Abu Dhabi for the second straight year.

Vettel claimed the title by just four points over Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, who struggled throughout the race and finished seventh. The German entered the season-finale 15 points behind leader Alonso. It's the first time Vettel has led in the points standings since his F1 career began in 2007. And it couldn't have come at a better time.

"It has been an incredible tough season for myself and for all of [the team], physically and mentally, especially," Vettel said. "We have always kept believing in our team and the car. Today was a special day."

Vettel has had his share of low points during the season, especially in South Korea last month when he suffered engine failure late in the race and finished 17th. He trailed Alonso by 25 points with two races to go -- Brazil and Abu Dhabi.

Heading into Abu Dhabi, only 24 points separated leader Alonso from fourth- place Hamilton, making it the closest title battle heading into the F1 season- finale.

"All of us [title contenders] went through our share of ups and downs, and that's what made the season extremely intense," Vettel added.

Alonso, in his first season with Ferrari, was attempting to win his third world championship.

"It's a shame to get to the end of the season and then lose the title at the final moment, but that's racing," Alonso said. "Everything went wrong today, from the start itself to the strategy.

Button finished third in the race, while Mercedes GP's Nico Rosberg and Robert Kubica from Renault rounded out the top-five.

Mark Webber' eighth-place finish put him 14 points short of winning the title. Webber came to Abu Dhabi just eight markers behind Alonso.

"I tried my absolute hardest, and we did everything we could, but in the end it wasn't enough," Webber said.

Hamilton concluded his year 16 points behind.

"It's been a spectacular season for us, but a huge congratulations to Sebastian and Red Bull," Hamilton said. "They really did a fantastic job throughout the year. I think for us, it was a great result to end the season."

Vettel's victory and Webber's second-place finish in last Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix allowed Red Bull to clinch it's maiden constructors' championship.

"It's been a very emotional week for this team," Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said. "It has been a great season. Mark can also be proud of what he achieved this year. He took it into the last race."

The 2011 F1 season kicks off March 13 with the Bahrain Grand Prix.


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